The mays are hatching, we have been flat out guiding and the Himalayan Balsam season has started. We try out best to keep it under control but it seems to creep up on you.
At the start of the week I made a note that it might need some attention and then a few days later it was like the day of the triffids.
Emma and I popped down and went to work on one of the beats that suffers the most and having read Theo Pike’s excellent new book I went armed with a scythe like some sort of angling grim reaper and a lot more knowledge.
We usually just pull the stalks and Emma went for that option but Theo says it is OK to cut it as long as it is below the first node of the stalk so thats what I did. The only time I have been aware of the word node is when talking bamboo rods so it felt as though there was some sort of angling symmetry.
We worked hard and long and had a quick lunch at the Fox and Hounds, did some more and although the river level has dropped back there was a bit of colour so I opted for dropping a salmon fly in a few holes. I really enjoy this method of fishing rather than fishing just one pool all season. It tests my skill and knowledge as an angler and is fun too.
There has been a slight delay with Eat, Sleep, Fish as I haven’t had a chance to finish things off but it will be out soon. As a guide, and as it is the busiest time of the year, I’m not spending much time behind a computer keyboard and I doubt any other full time guides are sitting behind keyboards right now, they are out spreading the fly fishing word and the ones I have spoken to are doing just that. I’m pleased.
We’re almost two months into the trout season now. I would call it OK rather than outstanding on the Taw. It has been slow to grind into action and has had good days and some average days so OK seemed a fair description. The highlight though has to be the 16 1/2 incher that Lewis guided Matt into the first Bank Holiday of the month. He has fished in Devon a bit and said he hadn’t seen anything as big in these parts which was really nice.
I have fished the Taw a fair bit. I like to because I love the river so much but also because I think it is my job to know exactly what is going on. Sure, each day is different but having a handle on hatches, their times and if the fish are rising or not takes the guess work out of my day and lets the people we are guiding know that we are on top of what is happening.
That having been said I have already racked up a good number of other rivers I’ve fished this year too. If I haven’t been guiding I’ve been fishing which has been really good fun. Some of it has been alone but most days it has been in the company of good friends. I love nymph fishing but this year it has been fishing small, overgrown streams with a small rod and a dry fly. To me, at the moment, it has been pleasing to cast a fly line and dry fly and have a fish give me the ultimate compliment and eat the fly. It has also been a good testing ground for a variety of patterns I concocted during the closed season.
The fish haven’t been huge on these streams. To be honest, I don’t really care. I’m not a trophy hunter or a numbers man, I just love being out on the water and every day I am fishing a river is a bonus but a big one every now and again is good fun and lets you know you are doing something right if you fool that big old brown tucked away in a deep undercut hole.
The rain we’ve had should start to bring the migratory fish up our way on the Taw. I managed to catch a small sea trout on another river a week or so ago when nymphing with my pal Jimmy. But for me I am interested, really interested to see how the mayfly hatch plays out this year. Last year it was Okish, the same the year before but the years before that have been awesome and I hope we might get something similar. I’ll be hopping round with excitement if I wake up to an overcast, drizzly day the sort that is perfect for Danicas.
If it does play out this way I plan to put sea trouting on the back burner and will fish the spinner fall long and hard even after a long days guiding.
I have my rod collection pretty much where I want it and have been using my pack for most of the fishing I have been doing. I was guiding using a hip pack and transferring fly boxes from the pack to the hip pack which, if you have a memory like mine is a pretty high risk strategy. So I’ll use the pack for work and general river fishing and go back to the lanyard with a small selection of flies for the small stream stuff.
It is coming in to the cream of the fly fishing season and I for one can’t wait!
The car temp said 6 deg C as I drove to meet Lewis and Alex. They’d both been fishing in Wales the day before and caught fish but it sounded like they had to grind them out.
I had the day off and Lewis was guiding, so Alex and I were off fishing. The rain started too. Nothing heavy just something to remind you that the bright blue skies from the few days previous had gone.
I took Alex to a place I like to fish. It was further up the river and I thought we might stand a chance. There is nothing like a fish splashing at the dry you have tied on as part of the duo set up in the second pool you fish.
It didn’t stick but we fished on with slightly elevated spirits.
Things remained quiet though so we decided on a change of river and a quick pit stop for food. We ate as we drove and hit the next river.
The fish started to come, but not in the way that makes you think that you have your set up finely tuned enough to fish with the sort of confidence that you get when the trout are really biting.
We were starting to think about getting out as things got cooler still but secretly, I don’t think either of us wanted to, so we didn’t. We shared a rod, talked and caught some fish.
As we worked up the river I thought about a pool I really like to fish. We’d just fished my favourite one, it had been good to us so we hopped out and walked upstream.
There is nothing like being greeted by a rising fish, then another and another. The nymph was snipped off and replaced by a dry. We had to make a couple of changes before we got the pattern right but when we did we caught some of the risers and brought some fish up too. It was a good way to end a good day.
Toby and I fished together Friday. When we meet up we often decide how we are going to fish for the day and (usually!) stick to it. I can’t always say it’s easy, especially if the fish aren’t playing ball, then guide in me wants to change things up a little but we do stick to it.
Yesterday Toby said “right, dries only” We were higher up a river and thought it was a pretty fair shout despite the day before with D and JB the dry fly fishing sucked. Having said that the sun was shining and I had some dries I had tied up that I wanted Toby to have a go with.
The water was clear and we could see fish. None were rising but I told Toby the flies I’d tied would bring the fish up. It was a big claim and one I secretly hoped would work.
He cast across to a fish that took a look and while it decided if it was going to eat it a tiny fish came from nowhere and made its decision quicker than the larger one.
Toby carried on and had another. It was my go, I cast into a slight dip against a bank and the fly was taken almost immediately. It wasn’t the snaps I’d seen from early season trout on some other rivers just a good honest, yup, I’ll eat that type of rise.
Early in the season I often miss a few takes and sometimes this early on I am convinced the fish do too. I’m not sure if that is right or not but it makes me feel better about any I do miss.
The fishing was good, the fish in this stream are not big, a 10 incher is a good fish. I love nymph fishing but there is nothing that beats casting a light line rod with just a dry fly and seeing a small, wild brown trout decide the fly you tied over winter did the job you hoped it would.
I spoke to my pal Jim today. We are a month apart in age and after talking through our various aches and pains conversation naturally came on to fishing.
Jim has been a fishing guide for long, long time now but has also taken on gainful employment as brand manager for Vision Fly Fishing. He has worked incredibly hard since taking on the role and the only downside is that it has cut into his fishing time a little. That having been said, as a result of his job he has had offers to fish in some seriously cool places, so there are some big upsides too.
He also said Warren, who he fishes with a lot, has changed his job a fair bit and neither of them are able to hit the river at such short notice as they used to.
We talked a little about how it is fun to fish with a friend, share a rod, some laughs and walk up the river together catching a few fish. Jim had said how he prefers to fish in company. I think part of this is part of how much time we, as guides, spend with someone at our sides and so it sort of becomes second nature and a little weird when we fish on our own.
I know I like to fish this way with my friends. For me it is just as much as spending time with a good friend as the fish we catch, although the concentration kicks in when we see a big fish rising.
One of the things I have found over the years, is to switch off from a professional angler/guide to a pleasure angler when I have a day off. A long while back it wasn’t so easy but now I find it very easy and just go with the flow. I like it.
The other thing I have noticed is how much I am enjoying my fishing. It is probably more than I have ever done before. I find I look for any small window to go cast a fly and even yesterday before work I was on the river catching a few trout just to satisfy what seems to becoming an insatiable appetite for this thing we call fly fishing.
It means these quickly snatched hour or two are often alone but I am getting used to it and really enjoying it. The thing I have noticed is that I talk to myself a little when I make a nice cast, stuff a fish or decide on a change of fly. I guess I must be enjoying my own company!
Anyway, off fishing now hoping to catch the grannom hatch.
The daffodils are starting to emerge, the snowdrops are stunning and I saw three large dark olives last week.
I got up this morning and the sky was a little clearer and things feel good.
The countdown to the trout fishing season is just about underway and the rivers are starting to drop. I am probably speaking too soon but it feels like I might even get a go at some grayling this week if things stay as they are.
It is probably a big ask for this to happen but right here, right now I am feeling just the right side of optimistic.
I haven’t cast a fly for grayling since before Christmas and am starting to forget what one looks like. Hopefully this will change soon.
Emma and I were in Stockbridge at the weekend. The Test still had a big push to it and there were were still sandbags in the doorways of the houses. I’m told by Ed in the Orvis store that it didn’t make it in to the shops or houses but it was close.
We walked along the high street of the town. Although I have visited there many times we weren’t in any sort of rush. When I am usually there I am working or fishing so I am usually buying some last minute flies or meeting someone. This time I wasn’t and although the associations with Stockbridge and fishing are closely interwoven I got the chance to see just how closely from the fish shaped door knockers and weather vanes to the guy walking down the High Street talking rather loudly to a friend about the fishing at Chew and Blagdon. It certainly does pack heavy credentials when it comes to talking about it as a fishing town.
So, it feels almost spring like, I am sorting the grayling bugs and I might even get a chance to use them.
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As has been the case a lot recently the rain has played a big part in fishing plans. I spoke to Toby late yesterday and had the “what do you think?” conversation about going fishing today.
The need to get out, cast a fly and stand in a river was too great. Toby was a little burnt out after coming back from a trade show. His ferry docked at stupid o’clock and he’d made the drive home getting in at 5.30am.
He was up for it despite this but a late in the day hit of the refresh button on the webcam had shown a river that had held its level throughout the day despite all the rain had started to rise. The extra 20cm it had put on was enough for it not to be anything close to being fishable and so we decided to knock it on the head.
I got up this morning greeted with sun and a feeling that I couldn’t sit in. The urge was too great and having rechecked the webcam I saw the river was falling. My car was packed anyway so I hit the road.
The road by our local dump was flooded. There was a car that had made it through the 2ft of water that had collected in a small dip in the road. The driver had got to the other side but was now standing with the bonnet of the car lifted and was peering inside.
I probably could have driven the 25 yards through it but decided against it. A flooded engine would cut into my fishing time. No, I’ll back up and go the other way.
One thing was for sure. The rain had been heavy during yesterday and into the night. I went through the mentally preparing myself to turn around when I got there routine but when I first caught sight of the river I knew I’d be able to cast a fly.
Setting up with a super fast sink tip and heavy tube fly I went for it, carefully picking the spots where it was safe to wade and where I thought I could swing my fly.
Paul J called to talk reels. “Guess where I am?” After the expletives from him I finished the call and sent him a picture from my phone so he could see exactly where I was fishing.
I noticed I’d also got a text from JB who had picked his time well and fished the river Sunday.
I don’t usually carry a phone with me when I am fishing but we were waiting for a delivery of some furniture and I had promised the delivery driver I’d give him directions to our house if he got lost. I’d also told him I was sorry I wouldn’t be there. He might even be a salmon angler and would understand.
It was liberating to be out and the day was more about spey casting practice but you know what? I don’t care one bit.
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I hit shuffle, turn the volume up and pull away. “I wanna love ya, love and treat ya right” Bob Marley. Perfect start to the day.
I do a bit of singing along until the song ends and I hear the guitar intro of the Specials “Do Nothing”.
The right song can set the tone and as I pull up to meet Graham in the pub car park I make sure I turn the volume down just a little.
We decide to have a coffee and plan on where to do some bank work. We have both been watching water levels on this stretch of water and they are just below the red area on the EA website.
We park up and get a look at the river. It is pushing but it is not as much as we thought. The water is crystal clear.
The plan was to cut some of the riverside pathways and some access points too but we rig up our switch rods with the fastest sink tips we can find and heavy, heavy tube flies.
Graham hasn’t fished here yet so I walk him to the top of the water and we walk down to where there is some fishable water (just about) and it is safe to wade.
I watch quietly as he works his fly mending the line as it comes round to the dangle. I watch a few more casts and make my way downstream to find some similar water. I know he’ll find me when he has fished his way down.
I put another mend into my drift. “love and treat you right” I sing to myself. No one is in danger of hearing my out of tune vocals above the whoosh of the water.
We eat good pasties, seasoned perfectly, and then get the prunning gear out. I notice Graham’s gear is a lot better quality than mine and he makes short work of the thicker branches like some sort of Edward Scissor Hands. I follow up snipping anything he might have missed or bits where I think a net or fly line might get snagged.
We then decide to do a bit more fishing. Wouldn’t you?
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Sometimes the odds can be stacked against you. Not always, but sometimes. I kind of like these odds, the longshot that no one wants to even consider.
As we all know the rivers have been stacked heavily against fishing in our little part of the world. When I have had a chance I’ll check a webcam, speak to a friend and just keep my fingers crossed for somehwere I can wet a line.
The first road trip of the year was to be to Durham for a day and a bit of fishing but the rain came in and the river rose. It is just one of those things that happen this time of year.
Some of the rivers opened for salmon on Saturday and so JB, Josh and I decided we wanted to mark the occassion, more by sheer determination not to be beaten by conditions than anything else.
Needless to say the river was high but running pretty clear and we managed to find a couple of pools that were safe to stand in so we could make a few casts.
JB even had a nice trout take his tube fly as it was on the dangle.
It’s a start and it feels good!